Claude awoke, thought for a moment and then got out of bed and dressed himself, selecting items from a puddle of discarded clothes on the floor and not from his wardrobe, which now turned into a rocking horse at sunrise every day and rocked away on wooden adventures until sunset when it would return home and become a wardrobe once more. It was well past sunrise. The wardrobe-rocking horse was already off, had left the morning eating dust. Claude turned on the television and watched the opening of parliament. First, all the members held hands and reiterated their love for one another and then the leader stood up and announced that: “We are failing in our mandate to deliver constant, glorious, infinite happiness to everyone all the time.” Claude turned off the television. He thought about all the things in the world, all the things that existed minus all the things that had disappeared, and it made him feel limp and lifeless.
He wondered what could make him happy in the way that his wardrobe-that-turned-into-a-rocking-horse was supposed to but didn’t, then he ventured outside for a while and gazed at serious old buildings made of grey stone. Watched the sea which looked big and drab and ugly and tired, the boring sexlessness of the waves crashing over and over like recurring days and nightmares.
Claude went home and found his flatmate climbing down a ladder backwards, like an astronaut descending onto the surface of the moon. There was a new shelf high on the wall. Claude could not be sure but he did not think that this shelf would be the thing to bring them both infinite happiness. At least, not straight away.
In the interests of fulfilling the mandate of infinite happiness, their local pub had been transformed into an underwater-themed bar. Claude and his flatmate went there now, ordered drinks and sat in a booth with a small aquarium between them. The aquarium had hollows in the glass so that patrons could put their heads in and feel like they were in the sea, the rush and flash of silvery fishes all around them. The hollows were fitted with microphones and speakers to aid conversation, and a bubblespeak sound effect was applied to complete the experience. A straw was incorporated to aid the act of drinking.
“I put up a new shelf,” his flatmate said, sounding as if he were speaking underwater.
“I noticed. What do you want to put on it?”
“I don’t know.”
“It’s quite high up.”
“Maybe it was a bad idea then.”
Claude wondered how the two of them would look to the fish. “I don’t think the shelf will make us happy.”
They must have appeared as two giant heads, human and ordinary. “That’s okay. Didn’t you see the news? That’s normal.”
Patchwork skin and a random array of hair. “I’m serious.” Claude said this and then took several long strawfuls of drink.
His flatmate did the same, then made faces at the fish flying past his eyes.
“What are we going to do then?” Claude demanded, suddenly unhappier.
“I don’t know. We could start a bread van.”
“What the hell is a bread van?”
“You drive around in it, and you sell bread to other people.”
Claude stared at his flatmate in incomprehension, scowled. One of the fish had set long and languid defecation adrift in the water in front of him. Other fish darted around in front of Claude’s eyes, made him want to swipe them away with his hand like they were flies.
His flatmate laughed. “They used to have bread vans, back when everyone was happy. All the time.”
They walked home, Claude thinking about the fact that his wardrobe would be waiting for him when they got back to the flat. He felt a strong urge to change his clothes, change the day for the better.
“I don’t think it was that simple,” he told his flatmate as he unlocked the front door. “Bread vans,” he added.
In the flat, the new shelf was still proudly attached, high on the wall. It did look good. Claude’s wardrobe had returned itself faithfully to the corner of his room. Claude conceded that maybe there were things that could make them happy. Maybe it was shelves, maybe it was wardrobes or maybe a bread van could be the answer. Maybe if they had a bread van everything would be right with the world.
RIC CARTER is a short story writer/biscuit inventor/office monkey who lives in Guernsey with his girlfriend and cat (just to clarify — that’s one girlfriend and one cat, not one being who is both girlfriend and cat). If you have a spare afternoon he has five-years worth of work available to read at http://digestivepress.wordpress.com.